I am taking a class this semester, History and Literature of the Bible, from a secular university. For my class, I had to study the Book of Amos and report on how I thought the world today would receive a modern-day prophet with a message similar to what Amos preached, and if I believed there were any modern-day prophets like Amos. It was a fascinating study that I very much enjoyed, and since I do my studies online, it was great to know that my class of 60 people from around the country could also see the essay. I pray it was an encouragement. My professor loved it (he gave me a 100! 🙂 so I thought I’d post it here as well, if anyone is interested.
Amos was a shepherd, a common man, who was called by God to deliver a message both to Israel and to her neighbors. To Israel, Amos prophesied judgment for turning away from the Lord and for forgetting the poor and needy: “They sell the innocent for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as on the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed.” Amos 2:6b-7
The book of Amos is so interesting because it could have easily been written to the church in America today. There is a large evangelical cultural and even political Christianity that is seemingly complacent to true righteousness and to the care for the poor. When Amos wrote in chapter 6, verse 2; “Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria, you notable men of the foremost nation, to whom the people of Israel come!” he could have been writing to any number of Christian leaders of our day.
If a modern-day Amos was to appear (which in my opinion the Lord has sent several which I will address later), I believe he would be disturbed by the amassing of wealth in our society, and even by the large elaborate church buildings and churches giving 3% to the poor. Churches filled with members who seem to be numb to the fact that they live in a world where 8.1 million children die each year before their fifth birthday (one.org). Just like in Amos’ time, there is a sense where the religious of today have largely ignored the covenantal obligation to care for the poor, the widows and the orphans in their distress.
Like other prophetic works, the purpose of the prophecy was a warning to return to the Lord or face doom, and that only in returning to the Lord is hope found. Amos’ message was a warning what would happen if covenant abuse continued (Hauer, 140). This is why the end of the book is a hopeful picture of the restoration of Israel after her repentance.
I believe there are four modern-day prophets, or “Amoses,” calling the church to wake up and address the needs of the most needy:
- First is David Platt, Pastor of the Church at Brook Hills and author of Radical, who has called millions of people to take seriously the commandments of Jesus to care for “the least of these.”
- Second is Shane Claiborne, author of The Irresistible Revolution, has challenged the assertion that most Christians actually follow Christ. “I asked participants who claimed to be “strong followers of Jesus” whether Jesus spent time with the poor. Nearly 80 percent said yes. Later in the survey, I sneaked in another question, I asked this same group of strong followers whether they spent time with the poor, and less than 2 percent said they did. I learned a powerful lesson: We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. We can applaud what he preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore his cross without taking up ours. I had come to see that the great tragedy of the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.” (Claiborne).
- Third is Richard Stearn, President of World Vision and author of The Hole in our Gospel, who leads an organization that cares for millions of children in over 100 countries around the world and who calls churches and Christians to examine whether their giving to the poor lines up with their claims to care for the poor.
- Finally, although he is not often given the credit he deserves, is the work Bono has done to call churches and governments to fulfill their obligations to the most innocent. In an interview with Bill Hybels, a noted Christian leader and the Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, Bono called out church leaders who have not led on the issue of caring for the poor ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grBByc7t3Fs).
These four are considered fringe, or liberal, or even heretical by a great majority of evangelical Christians, and are not taken seriously. Like the prophets in Biblical times, they are criticized and ostracized. The news media does not pay attention to them because they are too busy selling politicized visions of doom. But these prophets have remained faithful to their message and for those with the ear to hear, they have called us to a Christianity that seems more like the way Christ actually lived than most of what we see in the world today that passes for religious behavior. Their message gives me hope for the church, because I believe that if we continue to get this wrong, and to build up treasures for ourselves instead of following the clear commandments of Scripture, we are as surely doomed to judgment as the nation of Israel in the time of Amos. Only in getting this right and caring for the least of these will we actually see the Kingdom of Heaven, both here and in the life to come.
Claiborne, Shane. The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. Zondervan, 2006.
Hauer, Christian E., and William A. Young . An Introduction to the Bible: A Journey into Three Worlds. 7th ed. Upper Saddle River: Pearson, 2008
“Maternal and Child Health.” One.org. Accessed 23 Feb 2011. http://www.one.org/c/us/issue/15/.